Following the underwhelming response to the Khan narrative in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the Starship Enterprise is back on course with “Star Trek Beyond,” the third chapter in the reboot of the classic film and television franchise.
Once again starring Chris Pine at the helm as Captain Kirk, this ‘Trek’ finally finds the Enterprise on its five-year mission into deep space. Answering a distress call to a distant planet, the ship is destroyed by the vindictive villain Krall (Idris Elba), who takes most of the crew members hostage as he prepares to execute a deadly plan of revenge on the Federation.
While the “destroy the Federation” narrative feels familiar, “Star Trek Beyond” has all the elements you’d want in a “Star Trek” film: smart dialogue, exciting action, spectacular visual effects and moments of poignancy, all while maintaining a sense of humor about itself. Most importantly, it maintains the tone of the franchise, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
You can’t help but be saddened throughout the film every time Anton Yelchin pops up on screen as Chekov, showing once again the brilliance that was cut short by his tragic death last month.
“Ice Age: Collision Course” (PG) 3 stars (out of 4)
The fifth film in the “Ice Age” film series is probably more of a screwball comedy than any of its four predecessors, yet it has the most dire of circumstances: an asteroid is hurtling toward the planet and threatening extinction, and the woolly mammoth Manny (voice of Ray Romano) and his pre-historic friends, including the one-eyed weasel Buck (Simon Pegg), must find a way to deflect it off its collision course.
Despite the end-of-the-world storyline, “Ice Age: Collision Course” is hardly a film that will have younger viewers fretting. In fact, the film is very kid-friendly, especially when it comes to the subplot involving Scrat the sabre tooth squirrel.
Continuing his quest to get that ever-elusive acorn, Scrat sets off the chain of events that puts his fellow creatures in peril. It’s easily his most entertaining adventure yet.
Reviews of “Star Trek Beyond” and “Ice Age: Collision Course” starting 10 minutes in on “The KQ Morning Show.”
Without question, Simon Pegg’s career trajectory of late has catapulted him into the stratosphere. In the past seven months, he’s appeared in a “Star Wars” film with “The Force Awakens” and now, another “Star Trek” film — a pretty amazing feat, considering most actors don’t get the opportunity to be in one film in either franchise, much less both of them.
But the real thrill, Pegg said in a phone conversation from New York Wednesday, was an opportunity to co-write the screenplay for the latest adventure of the Starship Enterprise in “Star Trek Beyond.”
“It’s been a heck of a ride. It’s been a privilege to me as a fan and getting a chance to manipulate the ‘Star Trek’ universe and add details to it,” said Pegg, who, of course, also plays Scotty in the reboot of the film franchise. “It’s also great to add new characters and new situations for those beloved characters we know from 50 years of ‘Star Trek’ history.”
Opening on 2-D, 3-D and IMAX 3-D screens Thursday night, “Star Trek Beyond” finds the crew in the third year of its five-year mission, forced to confront a malevolent villain, Krall (Idris Elba), after his forces destroy the Enterprise and captures its crew. In addition to playing Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, Pegg shared screenwriting duties with Doug Jung. Pegg said while he and Jung felt an
220;enormous responsibility” to deliver, they weren’t necessarily intimidated by the assignment.
“As fans of the show, we felt, ‘Yeah, we can do this.’ This is something that we’re eminently qualified to do since we’ve been around a long time and felt plugged in,” Pegg said. “It felt right, even though I knew it would be daunting at times, and incredibly frustrating since we had a short space of time to write it in. I knew that eventually, if we could pull it off, then it would feel like a wonderful thing to have done. As the cliche goes, ‘It’s always better to regret something that you did do instead of something you didn’t.’ I didn’t want to say, ‘No way I’m doing this.’ It felt like it would be silly not to have grabbed the opportunity.”
While Pegg knew from a narrative standpoint that the “Star Trek” saga was moving forward, he also wanted to give his take on the franchise a different spin, creatively. Oddly enough, while the spin would be fresh to the timeline of the new trilogy of films, it’s essentially an idea that makes up the core of the TV franchise.
“First and foremost, we wanted to get the Starship Enterprise trekking. It hadn’t even started its five-year mission in the first two movies,” Pegg said. “The first two movies were pretty much in their own solar system with a few little jaunts outside of it. It felt like we need to get this film to be what the original TV series was about, which was a mission to explore the galaxy.”
Another thing that was important to Pegg was to make sure the film didn’t take itself too seriously.
“We wanted the film to feel fun, and not dark and ponderous,” Pegg, 46, said. “That seems to be the mood these days, to make everything so dark and serious, almost as if to justify us watching these things as grown-ups. In actual fact, these stories should be celebrated for what they are. If the stories are light and fun, the movies should be light and fun. I think the original ‘Star Trek,’ aside from having a vein of social commentary and seriousness to it — which is an important part of it — also did embrace its humor, and people sometimes forget that. It was important to Doug and I that the film had a fun side, too, in addition to being an exciting and thoughtful adventure.”
Produced by J.J. Abrams, directed by Justin Lin and featuring the return of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Karl Urban, “Star Trek Beyond” has an inherent bittersweet feeling to it since fellow core cast member Anton Yelchin died tragically in June at the age of 27. Pegg said the loss of Yelchin has naturally been weighing heavy on everybody’s minds, even as they get ready to premiere the film for fans at San Diego Comic Con this week.
“We knew it was going to be an effort to promote the film with any degree of enthusiasm because we’ve lost somebody that we loved,” Pegg said. “We’ve been a family for a long time and I feel for anyone who’s lost anybody in circumstances that were premature. It’s an unspeakable pain, and we’re all utterly, utterly undone by it.”
Pegg said when he saw the film for the first time recently, he expected to be in tears the whole time, only to be gripped by the magic of a performer who was clearly in his element when he was onscreen.
“To see Anton alive, to see him feel alive, vital and brilliant like he was, it made me realize that he will live forever,” Pegg said. “For people who didn’t know Anton, things haven’t changed. You’re still going to be able to see him and still be able to enjoy what he did. For us who knew him, there’s going to be a hole in our lives forever, but we decided to move forward in the promotion of this film because it was coming out whether we liked it or not.
“Rather than withdraw from it and not engage, we decided to get out there and work hard because it needs to be seen and not missed because it stars Anton,” Pegg added. “He was our brother and we loved him very, very much.”
Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie has officially worked on four projects with actor-filmmaker Tom Cruise, from writing “Valkyrie” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” to directing the action superstar on “Jack Reacher.”
Yet no matter how convicted Cruise was on those projects, McQuarrie said there was something extra special watching Cruise come to life as Ethan Hunt in their latest collaboration, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” and proving that the life of a legendary super-spy isn’t as perfect as you would expect.
“What was especially great in this one was Tom’s ability and his willingness to not only to have fun with himself, but with the character,” McQuarrie told me in a recent phone conversation. “It was fun to direct Tom in a scene where he was supposed to jump over the hood of a BMW. Your expectation is that it’s going to be this movie star hood-slide, but instead, he trips and takes a face-plant on the hood. That part was improvised. He said, ‘I got something, just roll the camera,’ and he did this great sight gag.”
on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday (Paramount Home Media Distribution), Cruise again embodies Hunt, a rogue agent of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) and bane of CIA honcho Hunley’s (Alec Baldwin) existence. Tired of the destruction Hunt continually leaves in his wake, Hunley finally manages to convince the government to absorb — and effectively, abolish — the IMF program. Apart from his past misgivings, Hunley is also fed up with Hunt’s obsession with the terrorist organization known as “The Syndicate” — a group that the CIA claims is a product of Hunt’s (Cruise) imagination.
However, a deadly encounter with The Syndicate’s head (Sean Harris) confirms Hunt’s suspicions that the group is indeed for real, and he needs to enlist the handful of his IMF colleagues (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames) to bring the group down. The situation is so desperate that Hunt is forced to take a leap of faith and trust Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a Syndicate agent who for reasons unexplained, helps him escape torture and certain death at the hands of her employer.
“Rogue Nation,” like the previous “Mission: Impossible” installments, is chock-full of death-defying stunts, not the least of which Cruise’s heart-pounding scene as he clings to the outside of a cargo plane. Despite all of the planning that went into the scene, McQuarrie doesn’t deny that it’s the stuff nightmares are made of, especially for the guy directing the film.
“His falling off the plane was actually the least of my concerns,” McQuarrie said. “It was the debris on the runway and potential bird strikes that made me worry about him being torn off of the plane rather than falling. We realized as we got closer and closer to that stunt that there was really nothing we could do about it. You were really doing something that had never been done before, and you had to go with a ‘Let’s see what happens’ approach. It was pretty terrifying.”
The interesting thing about the shot is that the cat was let out of bag early about it. Not only was the sequence heavily featured in the film’s trailer and TV spots, it was depicted on the film’s theatrical poster. Because of that, McQuarrie used the scene very early in the film, and surprised many viewers in the process.
“We knew instinctively that it was the right thing to do to put the scene where we did,” said McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “The Usual Suspects.” “If we built the whole movie about that shot and put it at the end, it simply wouldn’t be fresh or satisfying.”
Perhaps one of the freshest surprises to come out of “Rogue Nation” is Ferguson, a Swedish actress relatively new to the Hollywood film scene. McQuarrie, who will be back with Cruise for yet another “Mission: Impossible” film in 2017, said he hopes Ferguson will be a part of it.
“Since I had such a great experience working with Rebecca, I would love-love-love to work with her again,” McQuarrie enthused.
Then, the writer-director suddenly remembered how “Rogue Nation” effectively catapulted the actress to superstardom.
“Unfortunately, everybody else in the world loves her as much as I do now. I only hope she’s available,” the director added with a laugh. “I just hope she returns my calls.”
Tom Cruise truly makes the impossible possible with “Rogue Nation,” a serious contender for the best installment in the five film “Mission: Impossible” series. Expertly directed and co-written by Christopher McQuarrie, “Rogue Nation” maintains the same energy, thrills and explosive action as it’s awesome predecessor “Ghost Protocol,” yet continues to advance the “Mission: Impossible” narrative instead of running into the trappings of most film sequels.
Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, a rogue agent of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) and No. 1 pain in the ass of CIA honcho Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who finally manages to convince the government to absorb, and effectively, abolish, the IMF program. Apart from his past misgivings, Hunley is also fed up with Hunt’s obsession with the terrorist organization known as “The Syndicate” — a group that the CIA claims is a product of Hunt’s (Cruise) imagination.
But after a deadly encounter with The Syndicate’s head (Sean Harris), Ethan confirms the group is indeed for real; but he needs the now small group of his fellow IMF colleagues to bring the group down. Ethan is forced to take a leap of faith and trust Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), a Syndicate agent who for reasons unexplained, helps him escape torture and certain death at the hands of her employer.
The great thing about “Rogue Nation” is that it’s full of surprises, starting with the highly-publicized scene where Cruise hangs onto the exterior of a cargo plane. Usually the sort of show-stopping scene you’d see in the third act of a film, the plane scene actually kicks off “Rogue Nation,” raising the stakes higher than they’ve ever been for a “Mission: Impossible” film (with maybe the exception of the Dubai tower scene in “Ghost Protocol”).
From there, “Rogue Nation” is naturally jam-packed with riveting action scenes (including a dizzying cycle chase), yet never once loses sight of the film’s detailed narrative. Loaded with twists and turns, “Rogue Nation” will keep you guessing until the very end.
Cruise is spectacular once again as Ethan, and you have to really admire his commitment to the physical demands of the role and the ever-expanding narrative of the “Mission: Impossible” series. He’s clearly the star of the series, yet generously shares his screen time with co-stars Simon Pegg (funnier than ever), Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames — the only IMF agents he can trust.
Cruise also has an amazing eye when it comes to bringing new actors into the fold, particularly Ferguson, an experienced star of Swedish and British film and TV, who marks her second appearance in a U.S. film with “Rogue Nation.” Smart, physically lethal and sexy as hell, Ferguson possesses a classic Hollywood screen beauty rarely seen in today’s films. Even as a relative newcomer to American film, she more than holds her own against Cruise.
“Vacation” (R) 1 star (out of four)
The “Holiday Road” has hit a dead end with “Vacation,” a dreadfully unfunny remake of the Harold Ramis-directed gem “National Lampoon’s Vacation” from 1983. Packed to the gills with moronic jokes and forced humor at every turn, “Vacation” is easily a contender for worst movie of the summer, if not worst movie of the year.
After an amusing opening featuring a couple-dozen pictures you’d see in an Awkward Family Photo album (full disclosure – the first photo they show is of my wife’s second cousins), “Vacation” picks up with Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), who shifts gears away from the usual summer vacation destination and insists that his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and two sons (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) retrace his family’s cross-country trip to Walley World from 30 years before.
Renting a knock-off hybrid vehicle that instantly becomes trouble, Rusty loads up his wife and kids for the long trip from Chicago to California. Naturally, they run into one disaster after the next, yet hold out the hope of making it to Walley World in one piece.
Opening with a classic “Holiday Road” tune from the 1983 original film, the music switches gear to an F-bomb laden rap song, setting the tone for the sort of trashy movie the new “Vacation” quickly becomes. Whether it comes with the revelation of Debbie’s torrid sexual encounters during college to her puke-soaked attempt to regain her former glory during a stop at her alma mater; or the family’s dip into the festering sewer waters which was revealed in the film’s red band trailer, “Vacation” seems intent to make you cringe and gag in the hope that you’ll laugh at it, too. Cringe and gag you will. Laugh you won’t.
But that’s not the worst of it. There’s the youngest Griswold (Stebbins) who plays one of the most annoying characters in recent movie memory: a smart-ass preteen who drops the F-bomb with wanton abandon; and also kicks off the movie’s string of oh-so-funny (NOT) jokes about pedophilia and rape that pollutes the film.
By far the most embarrassing thing about “Vacation,” though, is Helms, who assumes the role played by Anthony Michael Hall as a child (if the filmmakers thought Hall wasn’t able to play himself as an adult, the joke’s on them). It’s too bad, because Helms (as evidenced by “The Office” and “Hangover” films) can be funny; but here he’s relegated to effectively playing the same, horribly misinformed dad that Chevy Chase embodied in the first film. Chase, naturally, shows up in a cameo, as does Beverly D’Angelo, but they’re really not given anything to work with because frankly, there’s nothing there.
As awful as “Vacation” is, there are a few bright spots: Chris Hemsworth, who plays the very well-endowed husband to the adult Audrey Griswold (Leslie Mann), is quite funny; and Charlie Day nails his bit role as a chipper whitewater rafting guide. While not as funny as the still photos in the opening credits, the stills to close the movie (along with yes, another trashy, F-bomb filled song) signals the film’s squandered potential. And, um, Thor does swing his mighty hammer in the end credits, so beware.
Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers